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Cave formations are found on all of the California Channel Islands, both coastal caves as well as inland caves. With the relatively modern sport of kayaking, more and more caves are being given names which historically weren't named.

* Caves: Anacapa Island

Cathedral Cave, Anacapa Island
Yates Cave, Anacapa Island (Frenchy's Cave, Anacapa Island)
Freshwater Cave, Anacapa Island (Indian Cave, Anacapa Island)
Sea Lion Cave, Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island has approximately 135 sea caves, many of which have been given names in modern times ('Lost Glasses Cave', etc.)

  • 1993. Bunnell, David Sea Caves of Anacapa Island McNally & Loftin, 1993

* Caves: San Clemente Island

Big Dog Cavern, San Clemente Island

* Caves: San Miguel Island

Daisy Cave, San Miguel Island

* Caves: San Nicolas Island

Indian Cave, San Nicolas Island

* Caves: Santa Barbara Island

Cave Canyon, Santa Barbara Island

* Caves: Santa Cruz Island

Blimp Hangar Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Cueva Escondida, Santa Cruz Island
Cueva Valdez, Santa Cruz Island
Del Mar Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Dry Midden Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Dry Sandy Beach Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Hidden Room Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Midden Point Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Olson’s Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Painted Cave, Santa Cruz Island
Sponge Cave, Santa Cruz Island

1897 Owens, Rob C. Caves of Santa Cruz Island in Land of Sunshine 7: (54-58)
1963 Parsons, Lindsley The Painted Caves of Santa Cruz in Sea and Pacific Motor Boat 55: 13 (15-18) December
1965 Finley, Richard S. Notes on the Orizaba Pictograph (Olson’s) Cave, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara County, California in Stanford University Grotto Monthly Report 1: 10 (2-3)
1988 Bunnell, David Sea Caves of Santa Cruz Island. McNally & Loftin

* Caves: Santa Rosa Island

Arlington Cave, Santa Rosa Island
Nidever's Cave, Santa Rosa Island
Santiago's Cave, Santa Rosa Island

  • Bowers, Stephen Relics in a Cave in Pacific Science Monthly, 1: 4 (45-47) 1885
  • J. W. Sefton Foundation Channel Islands Sea Cave Expedition in Stanford University Grotto Monthly Report 1: 10 (2-3) 1965

In the News~

September 3, 1883 [SBDP]: “An excursion to Lady Harbor. A newly discovered haven on Santa Cruz Island. ... Our party consisted of six including Captain Larco. After a delightful sail of about four hours in the Ocean King sloop, we reached Santa Cruz Island, anchoring in a small inlet about ten miles from the west end. Here we spent the night, in the morning we explored a cave in the vicinity which we named ‘Larco Cave’ in honor of our captain. This cave is 300 feet long, with a regular gallery 50 feet wide, the entrance a perfect arch, with an opening of about 10 feet, we rowed our boats to the end of this...”

January 21 1884 [SBDP]: “Mr. W. N. Cowles, the manager of the Arlington, accompanied by Messrs. F. S. Hinkle, E. R. Diamond, W. W. Burton and A. C. Wilson sailed for Santa Cruz Island last Thursday on Captain Larco’s schooner, Ocean King, on a pleasure-seeking expedition. The gentlemen give a glowing account of their trip... Among the natural curiosities at the island the party greatly enjoyed the Mammoth Cave about a quarter of a mile deep, which in itself is a grand novelty rendered more so by being the habitat of numberless sea lions, some of which they secured, but were unable to bring back with them. At another point there is a cave extending through the island from shore to shore, through which the waves dash from either side, making loud awe-producing reverberation as the two tides meet...”

March 7, 1890 [SBMP]: “Dr. L. G. Yates, of this city, in a lengthy article in the American Geologist for January last, has an illustrated article on the Geology and Scenery of the Southerly Line of the Santa Barbara Channel.” His description of the caves is an interesting account of those natural wonders which will some day be one of the great attractions of Santa Barbara...”

July 7, 1897 [SBDI]: “The latest Land of Sunshine, the Los Angeles magazine, contains an article on ‘Caves of Santa Cruz Island,’ by Rob. C. Owens and illustrated with beautiful, clear cut views of Cueva Valdez, Painted Cave, Ladies’ Harbor and the Arch.”

July 18, 1897 [LAT]: “Land of Sunshine… Robert C. Owens writes charmingly of the ‘Caves of Santa Cruz Island,’ one of the lovely isles of our sunset sea…”

April 16, 1904 [The Ojai]: “The Pelican Bay camp, Santa Cruz Island, is opened to the public at last... Professor Thacher and a party of his students ... went to Seal Cave on the sloop Pride. 'I cannot find words,' Professor Thacher said, 'to fitly describe this wonderful home of the seals'. The great cave with its delicate and many tints of colors, its arched passages leading off to no one knows how far; the water gurgling and hissing as the gentle ocean swells..”

March 6, 1908 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez, after a terribly rough trip during which he and his crew nearly lost their lives in one of the caves of San Miguel Island, returned yesterday morning with 17 sea lions for Captain McGuire's eastern and foreign patrons. The weather was rough throughout, but orders were urgent, and Captain Vasquez determined to get a good bag of seals at all costs. With a skiff and crew of two men, Vasquez entered one cave with a narrow mouth but chapel-like interior. All was dark within, but upon lighting a torch, 20 or 30 seals slid off the cave into the sea, creating a tremendous tumult, capsizing the boat and giving the occupants a cold dunking. The boat was righted and backed to the entrance so that the seals were driven into cul-de-sac, and in this way many exposed themselves sufficiently to enable the vaqueros to rope them.”

May 15, 1908 [SBMP]: “Captain Rosaline Vasquez, in the Gussie M, started today for another trial to fill his contracts for seals. For about a month now, Captains McGuire and Vasquez have maintained a camp on Santa Cruz Island, but in all that time there have been only two days when they could get to the caves for seal hunting. On the two days they were able to work at the caves they obtained 14 seals. Their contracts call for 30 seals for Kansas City, 15 for Europe, and about 15 more to fill small orders...”

June 12, 1909 [SBMP]: “No more seals can be taken from island rookeries this season. One of the unique industries in the world, and one peculiar to the islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, is the pursuit of the elusive seal and sea lion for commercial and zoological purposes…The seals are usually captured in the caves on the islands where they go to rest and doze. In a majority of the caves there are small beaches and there the animals collect by the score. There also is where the seal hunters make their killing, often times catching as many as a dozen in clean up. The method of catching the seals is a most interesting and fascinating one. A three-ply net, similar to a fish net only having larger meshes and heavier strands, is stretched across the mouth of the cave. Several men then enter a skiff and row back into the cave, firing off guns. The seals, startled by the reports, take to the water and dart for open sea. Captain Vasquez in another small boat takes his position near the mouth of the cave and as soon as a seal strikes the net and comes to the surface, he lassoes it with a specially constructed lariat. Then the lasso is passed to a man on shore and the seal is placed in a specially constructed crate hauled sideways to the crew’s boat and placed aboard for delivery at Santa Barbara. In some instances, as many as four or five seals are caught in one haul of the net. From Santa Barbara they are shipped to all ports of the world...”

June 3, 1916 [SBMP]: “Captain Ira K. Eaton came over from the islands in his powerboat, Sea Wolf, last evening with eight fine seals taken in the island caves for Captain George M. McGuire...”